Zuster Fox?

Zuster Fox?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Joyful Message to Share

Hallo! It's been another wonderful week at the MTC!

At our devotional yesterday one of the speakers mentioned a Gordon B. Hinckley quote about how the three things a missionary should do are 1. Smile 2. Smile and 3. Smile. I thought, woohoo! I've got this one! I feel blessed for my positive nature. I'm not struggling as much as some others are here. Of course, maybe I should try to stress more and work harder... But I think there's a balance to be achieved. This is a joyful message, and I'm excited to prepare to share it! Even if the language is hard sometimes.
Dutch Zusters with our flags!
So speaking of the language, who wants to learn some Dutch? Zuster Robbins and I have a hard time occasionally when Dutch words sound silly in English. For example, Baptism = de doop, pronounced "dope." We almost laughed out loud in a lesson when we were trying to talk about John the baptist and the investigator was like, "Oh yeah, Johan de dooper (dope-er)." But maybe we are just crazy missionaries (gek zendelingen). Dutch is fun because the guttural "g" just makes every word exciting! There are no hard "g's" ever, unless they're next to an "n." And since the language is so literal, some words are just really long. We have great teachers though who make learning exciting, and we can already speak a lot of Dutch just during the day. It's fantastic.

We said goodbye to the 12 crazy Danes and 3 awesome Icelandic missionaries in our zone on Sunday after taking some sweet temple pictures. We will miss them but it's nice to study uninterrupted haha... And we are getting a new batch of Danes today! I'm excited to welcome them.
Our zone picture before the Danes left! I think it's so cool to see all the flags represented- Suriname, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium- the only flag missing is Iceland. The Danes have left but we're getting a new batch today!
Along with the language, we are learning how to teach, and more about the Gospel. The MTC is like majoring in Theology, Education and a language all at once and packing it all into six weeks which can be crazy. my perception of missionary work is so altered. It's not awkward or naive as portrayed in popular culture... It's about loving others and showing them how the Gospel can meet their needs. It's about establishing friendship and trust. I'm even more excited now to serve. We just passed our hump day, of sorts- less than three weeks until I leave for the Netherlands!
Zuster Robbins and I enjoying a beautiful day at the MTC!

I hope all is well at home! I'd love any e-mail/letter updates from friends, even if I can't always respond right away- and if anyone would rather get this post as an email instead, that might be an option. Tot ziens! Ik hou van jullie!

-Zuster Voss

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Giving 100%

Goede dag mijn vrienden! Today's language-don't comes from my friends the Swedes (missionaries going to Sweden) in our zone. Apparently the pronunciation of the "o" is critical in a certain word, because otherwise instead of telling someone that Christ died for them, you might be informing them that Christ murdered for them. One sentence is sacred, the other is sacrilegious, so keep that in mind if you're ever learning Swedish.
Zuster Robbins & Zuster Voss

The MTC is an emotional roller coaster but again, I have loved this past week. Has it already been two full weeks? Time flies when you never have a spare second in your schedule.

I have already become so much better at volleyball while here. Some people are super intense but mostly we just have fun, which is a good environment for improvement. However, I was jumping up to hit the ball and collided with another Elder and landed on my foot wrong... so the middle of it was really bruised and I sort of limped around for a couple days, but all is well now.

We had some exciting speakers! Sister Bonnie Oscarson, the Young Women General President came to talk to us. Something that she said and that has really been emphasized here is that we need to give 100% and go to bed completely exhausted every day. I've been trying harder at that, not letting myself get lazy in class when my brain really just wants to fall asleep, and it has made a big difference! Not necessarily in how much better I perform, but in how much better my attitude is. It's way more fulfilling.

ALSO Jenny Oaks Baker came on Sunday! If you have not heard of her, I recommend going and searching her music on You Tube right now. She is a fantastic violinist, and she was hilarious, as well as inspiring. It made me so happy to hear her. I had a great seat- center, four rows back, so I could see her fingers without the screen. I'm so grateful music is such a big part of the MTC experience. Also, Zuster Robbins and I played a musical number in our branch on Sunday, which was fun!
All six of us Dutchies decided to color coordinate one day. I think we're super cute!

Most of the sisters in my zone, behind the temple. I love these girls!
Nederlands is a beautiful language. I'm alternately amazed at how much I know already and humbled by how much I have to learn. I mean, I can teach a lesson, have a conversation, express myself fairly smoothly in a language I just started learning two weeks ago, that's cool. I've probably learned more in the past week than I did in my first year of learning Spanish haha. But don't try to talk to me about hobbies or activities or normal things. I have all the vocabulary for a religious discussion and none for the activities you did today. But I'll figure it out! :)

We have been learning about the importance of speaking simply and demonstrating that we care about those we are teaching. My teacher recently said something really cool-" You cannot say complicated things in Dutch, and that is a BLESSING." It's so true! In English it's easy for me to get on a confusing tangent but in Dutch, I can just say, "God loves you. You are His child. He wants you to be happy."* And that is so much more powerful.

I still adore my companion. We are a dream team and being here with a best friend is more fantastic than I can describe. Our biggest companionship struggle is that we love talking with and singing with each other which can occasionally be distracting, although we can also be very productive... And I'd much rather have that be the problem than to be worried about even getting along with someone I spend every moment with! I'd voluntarily hang out with Zuster Robbins all day. She rocks.
This just shows that My companion and I have the same minds. our planners are the same, even though we weren't looking at each other's as we filled them in; from the P-Day! on top to the look at music? in the corner, we are almost identical. I love her.

It's so weird to only get to communicate once a week. All my connections to the outside world have been severed. there could be a revolution going on in our country and I'd probably have no idea. It's strange but kind of nice- less to worry about, I suppose.

I love and miss you all! Learning Nederlands is wonderful and I'm excited to go serve there in less than a month now-- I hope all is well out there!

   Zuster Voss

*"God houd van u. U bent zijn kind. Hij wilt dat u blij zijn."

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I Love the MTC!

To paraphrase our friend Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride: "Let me explain. No, there is too much - let me sum up." I'm afraid that even if I sum up, this will be a lot of information!

This week I've been here at the Missionary Training Center feels like a month! The other missionaries say it's like a time warp here, and I totally believe them.

Fortunately, I love it here! There are hard moments for sure, but it's also totally geweldig (awesome, pronounced gh-veld-igh. Got to get those guttural G's). I'll briefly describe the difficulties but hang on, because I'm also going to tell you why I love it so much here!

So as you know, I have been learning Dutch (Nederlands) here. They teach us in the context of teaching others and by immersion, which is great and effective, especially for motivation. However, the first lesson we taught was on our second full day here, less than 36 hours after we had just been introduced to the language. I'm not sure I can convey the overwhelming frustration that comes from trying to explain one of the most important concepts in your life to someone in a language in which you know no grammar and have a laughably limited vocabulary. We had to write out exactly what we were going to say, and when we asked Pascal (that's the name of our "investigator") questions, we had no choice but to just smile and nod and say "goed" and press on through our lesson because we had no idea what he was saying. That was definitely discouraging. Later that day all of us Dutch sisters had to write all the words we had already learned on the board and admire it in order to rehabilitate our spirits!
When we were super frustrated and thought we knew nothing, we wrote all the words we did know on the board. In order, left to right: Zusters Watts, Bush, Thomas, Whittington, Robbins, Voss

However! We have had three lessons since then, each leaps and bounds better. I understand so much more, and I am happy to report that I am in love with the beautiful Dutch language! At first when it was hard, I must admit that I was disappointed; why didn't I get called to speak Spanish or English, when I can communicate and express myself so much more clearly and eloquently in those languages? But the more I learn, the more I love the language. Grammar lessons are my favorite, because understanding the rules helps me feel more confident in producing sentences of my own. I've also definitely experienced the gift of tongues already, and I know this is the language Heavenly Father needs me to speak.

This is just a side note, but Pascal complimented our improving Dutch in recent lessons which made me way excited. Also, he asked me if my family was from the Netherlands, because I have such a Dutch name! That made me way happy, even though I had to explain that no, my heritage is mostly German. I'm hoping that between my fair haired Northern European look and Dutch name, people there will assume I'm native until I actually open my mouth haha. Our past three lessons have been so great, we have skipped giddily out of them. Pascal is a golden investigator. He already committed to baptism! That escalated pretty quickly! And we can communicate so much more clearly.

So speaking of the language, are you ready for the fun/funny things? Dutch, as you might surmise, is difficult, especially when any given word has at least five syllables with crazy non-English vowel sounds and a million guttural g's. It's hard to distinguish between words. The Dutch Elders before us were teaching a lesson and accidentally confused "doop" with "dood," and challenged an investigator to commit to death the next week, instead of baptism. Both the investigator and elder were super confused. We sisters were laughing about how it's not even that out of context... "Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and commit to death next week?" Oh, dear haha. Anyway, we will not be making that mistake!

So here at the MTC, missionaries are organized into zones and districts, districts being the smaller units. I arrived on Wednesday with 6 elders and 5 other sisters all going to the Netherlands, and together we comprise two districts of 6. The other Dutch speaking missionaries in our zone are actually going to Suriname, which is cool. There are only four of them. Anyway, the zones are organized by language, so the Dutchies are in the same zone with missionaries speaking other Scandinavian languages and going to Sweden, Iceland, Norway and Denmark. It's pretty sweet because now that I understand by language better, since there are so many similarities I can kind of follow theirs as well. The Danes have been especially nice and welcoming to us new Dutchies, helping us figure out life at the MTC.

Funny language story from the Danes: the words for "pillar of light" and "lizard" are apparently very similar, so one missionary trying to retell the First Vision described "a lizard, exactly over my head which descended gradually until it fell upon me." Oh, the joys of learning a new language!

Another fun thing: I absolutely adore my companion! her name is Zuster Robbins. She is also the oldest of five and a talented musician, and our personalities are remarkably similar. We go around singing show tunes, Disney songs, and hymns together in fun harmonies. We're both crazy but in extremely compatible ways. We love talking to and laughing with each other, but we also work very well and manage to be focused and productive. We have had several people describe us as a dream team and it's awesome. I feel like I just met a best friend I was missing my whole life.
Sister Robbins and I with the flags in our classroom.
My other Dutch Zusters are also wonderful. I had already met Zusters Watts, Bush, and Thomas before the MTC so it's been great to get to know them better. Zuster Whittington is a recent convert of 18 months, so I have mad respect for her as well as for all of our freshly graduated from high school Elders for choosing to be here right now!
All of the Dutch sisters- notice me holding those flags!

I'm sorry that this is long! I'm really excited to share absolutely everything, I'm sure future updates will be shorter. Also, please forgive any grammatical errors you might encounter; I'm super paranoid that as my Dutch skills improve my English will steadily decline. My journal is already riddled with NederEngels (Dutch-English) but I love it- soon my journal will be an indecipherable code, from the language, not just my handwriting! :)

It's kind of funny how cut off from the outside world we are here at the MTC with no access to technology. At breakfast some worker had a little sign letting us know that Robbin Williams had passed away, and we were all sad, but we would have had no idea if that worker hadn't thought to let us know.
Sister Robbins and I with the missionary statue in the MTC.

Gym time at the MTC is fun- they have tons of exercise equipment we can use and games we can play. We've also been learning to moderate how much we eat in this all you can eat environment, so yay for being healthy at the MTC! Hopefully, there will not be any excessive weight gain that we've been warned about haha. It's impossible to give away food here, too. I'm grateful for the snacks I've brought and been sent, but I have no idea when I'll eat it all!

Every day, I marvel that I wear a name tag, that I'm an authorized representative of Jesus Christ. It's way cool... I've been preparing my whole life for this!

Spiritually, the MTC is very uplifting. I've been learning about the Gospel, how to teach and listen, and the language all integrated together. One of the biggest things I've learned is that is that when I'm sad or discouraged, it's because I'm focusing on myself. When I think about the support of my family and friends, the people waiting to here the message of joy I have to share, or when I think about my Savior in general, I'm immediately uplifted and encouraged. I think that's the secret to life in general, but that we really get it as missionaries. I'm mostly always happy here now that I know that!

On Sunday we got to take a walk around the temple, which was peaceful and wonderful. We have such rigid schedules here, it was nice to just relax. Of course, even our temple walk time is scheduled! I'm excited to actually go to the temple today.
My companion and I on the second Sunday! the temple is such a beautiful, peaceful place!

Also, on Sunday and Tuesday we got to sing in the MTC choir. It's a beautiful and inspiring experience to participate in. Also on Sunday andTuesday devotionals, I got to see all my friends learning Spanish at the West MTC campus, which is fun!

Despite all the wonderful new friends I've made here, I definitely miss my family and friends back home. Thank you for all the support I've received thus far, I love you all! Feel free to use DearElder.com to send letters/emails or to do that yourself to keep in touch, or even just so that I have your addresses.

I know this church is true, that I have been called of God, and that this is the right place for me to be. Until next week- Tot Ziens!

Liefde, Zuster Voss

Friday, August 8, 2014

Monday, August 4, 2014

New Missionary

I've officially been a missionary for... about three hours now! I'm excited to fly out to Utah tomorrow evening and enter the MTC on Wednesday. Speaking of which, I suppose I had better start packing! I have loved spending time with family and friends over the past month but it's time for me to really focus on all my last minute missionary preparations. The next time I write, I'll be in the MTC!

Love, Sister Voss